Well over £3 million has already been spent on Armagh’s long awaited link roads, Armagh I can reveal.
And, despite that hefty outlay, not a single inch of tarmac has been laid.
Indeed, the situation does not look like changing any time soon, with no progress ‘on the ground’ expected in the coming year, according to the most recent report going to council tonight (Monday).
In fact, the outcome of the preferred corridor for the east link road is not expected until the autumn of this year.
It is now over 10 years since the A3 Armagh north and west link road was first announced. And part of the east link road is already in place.
In that time, both projects have collectively cost taxpayers a whopping £3,286,000.
The expenditure has been revealed by the Department of Infrastructure, under which TransportNI now falls.
The details were released under Environmental Information Regulations after a Freedom of Information request submitted by Armagh I.
The north and west link road was originally to run a 6.9km route from the A3 Portadown Road to cut across Loughgall Road, around the outskirts of the city and emerge on the Monaghan Road, at a cost of between £55m and £75m depending on exact route.
The east link connects the A3 Portadown Road with the A28 Markethill Road, forming a junction with the A51 Hamiltonsbawn Road. Much of the infrastructure is already in place and it would cost between £12m and £20m to complete.
A review of the preferred corridor – which suggests the link emerging further along the road in the area of Edenaveys – is still ongoing, with a public consultation event previously having been held at Armagh City Hotel in June 2014.
To date, the east link road has cost a total of £1,151,000.
And the north and west links scheme has cost considerably more – £2,135,000 to be precise.
The Department of Infrastructure confirmed to Armagh I: “These figures include for all activities relating to the proposed schemes, including development fees, ground investigation works, traffic and topographical surveys and lands compensation.”
Despite continued expenditure in planning the routes and ‘behind the scenes’ workings, the truth is that neither will be materialising any time soon.
Both are subject to the required funding being made available from Stormont.
TransportNI’s Southern Divisional Manager Simon Richardson will present his annual report to the monthly meeting of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council tonight (Monday).
In it, he reports the latest in relation to the link roads, with confirmation that the east link consultation had “identified viable alternative options” which were now subject to a ‘stage two’ assessment before a preferred corridor can be confirmed. This assessment is expected to be completed in the autumn.
For the north and west links, the situation remains unchanged, as the reports states it would be “inappropriate to make a decision on the preferred route at this time, pending confirmation of proposals” for Mullinure.
And as far as getting work started on the ground, the document adds that both remain “subject to clearing the statutory procedures, having a satisfactory economic appraisal and the availability of funding in future budget settlements”.
Indeed, in terms of budget and plans for the year ahead, Mr Richardson states: “On the resource side, we start the year only being able to deliver a limited routine maintenance service. However, if in year bids in monitoring rounds are successful funding will immediately be used to normalise the service.”
He also points to “significant staff reductions” across the Southern Division since last year which required restructuring across all areas of work.
Mr Richardson adds: “With reduced staff we will be concentrating our efforts on delivering the highest priority work on the ground, within our allocated budgets. We remain committed to delivery of improvements to the network and councillors should be aware that this will be at the expense of assessing and reassessing requests for proposals which have limited prospect of delivery.
“To ensure continuity of service we are streamlining our processes for assessing requests to ensure best value for public money and the optimal use of our physical and financial resources.”